The European Commission presented on March 30 a package of European Green Deal proposals to make sustainable products the norm in the EU, boost circular business models and empower consumers for the green transition.
As announced in the Circular Economy Action Plan, the Commission is proposing new rules to make almost all physical goods on the EU market more friendly to the environment, circular, and energy efficient throughout their whole lifecycle from the design phase through to daily use, repurposing and end-of-life.
The Commission is also presented on March 30 a new strategy to make textiles more durable, repairable, reusable and recyclable, to tackle fast fashion, textile waste and the destruction of unsold textiles, and ensure their production takes place in full respect of social rights.
A third proposal aims to boost the internal market for construction products and ensure that the regulatory framework in place is fit for making the built environment deliver on EU sustainability and climate objectives.
Finally, the package includes a proposal on new rules to empower consumers in the green transition so that consumers are better informed about the environmental sustainability of products and better protected against greenwashing.
“It’s time to end the model of ‘take, make, break, and throw away’ that is so harmful to our planet, our health and our economy,” EU Commission Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans said. “Today’s proposals will ensure that only the most sustainable products are sold in Europe. They allow consumers to save energy, repair and not replace broken products, and make smart environmental choices when they are shopping for new ones. This is how we bring balance back in our relationship with nature and reduce our vulnerability to disruptions in global supply chains,” he added.
Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said European consumers rightly expect more environment-friendly and longer-lasting products. “More sustainability and resource efficiency also means more resilience when a crisis disrupts our industrial supply chains. By harnessing the potential of the Single Market, making the most of digital tools and improving market surveillance, we will maximise opportunities for businesses and consumers alike. Greater resource and energy efficiency in the construction and textile sectors in particular will generate highly skilled jobs across Europe,” Breton said.
Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius noted that the EU’s circular economy proposals kick off an era where products will be designed in a way that brings benefits to all, respects the boundaries of the planet and protects the environment. “Giving a longer lifespan to the phones we use, to the clothes we wear and to many other products will save money for European consumers. And at the end of their life products will not be a source of pollution, but of new materials for the economy, decreasing the dependency of European businesses on imports,” he said.
With these proposals, the Commission presented the tools to move to a truly circular economy in the EU: decoupled from energy- and resource dependencies, more resilient to external shocks and respectful of nature and people’s health. The proposals build on the success of EU’s existing Ecodesign rules, which have brought remarkable reductions in EU’s energy consumption and significant savings to consumers, the Commission said. In 2021 alone, existing ecodesign requirements saved consumers €120 billion. The rules have also led to a 10% lower annual energy consumption by the products in scope. By 2030, the new framework can lead to 132 mtoe of primary energy savings, which corresponds roughly to 150 bcm of natural gas, almost equivalent to EU’s import of Russian gas.
Reacting to the proposals, Henrike Hahn, Bavarian MEP of the Greens/EFA and member of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy and industrial policy spokesperson of the German Delegation, said in the field of tension between rising raw material prices, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack of the Ukraine and the climate crisis, the Commission’s Circular Economy Package is an important milestone towards green transformation. “The core building blocks of the circular economy – reducing our resource and energy consumption – and energy efficiency are key measures on the way to a climate-neutral economy in Europe. Today’s Commission proposal on the circular economy weaves these measures into key economic sectors such as the construction and building sector and the textile sector,” Hahn said.
According to the German MEP, the construction and building sector has a high potential for a circular economy. She noted that tere is still a lot of room for improvement when it comes to resource efficiency and energy savings – currently, the sector still accounts for almost 40% of greenhouse gases in Europe.
“A circular economy with functioning markets for recycled products is a double win: for the climate and the environment by saving valuable resources, but also for the benefit of Europe’s independence from raw materials. With Putin’s attack of the Ukraine it has become clear that high dependencies on third countries can have fatal consequences for the EU’s independence and economic ability to act,” Hahn said.
“In order to achieve our climate targets as quickly as possible, we must also involve consumers in particular and facilitate responsible consumption through information, transparency and strong consumer rights,” she said, adding that the right to repair now enshrined in the Commission’s proposal is an important step towards making products more durable and sustainable through a circular economy.